The Weather Channel: Who Knew?

I remember being completely amused years ago when I heard that a 24-hour show focusing just on the weather was being launched. How could just one topic be covered again and again on one network? Of course, this was when cable television was still in its fledgling state. I was used to being amused with sitcoms, news and movies of the week on network television. And my choices were slim. I was a slave to whatever NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS and WOR were offering on any given day or evening.

Fast forward to 2008: The Weather Channel is for sale and its owners might fetch $5 billion for it. What makes the network attractive, analysts say, is that it has expanded its offerings over the years to include, well, interesting features about weather. Seems as if consumers are always up for a good, nightmarish story on a hurricane, tornado or other terrifying weather-related incident. Additionally, there’s, which receives about 32 million unique users a month who are simply wondering whether it’s going to rain the next day or when temperatures will finally warm up in their neck of the woods.

There are several clear messages in the success of the Weather Channel for those who sell retail travel. One is, don’t be afraid to tap into a niche that some may find ludicrous. People are always ready to raise eyebrows when they hear of something that hasn’t been tried before. Is there a portion of the consumer market whose travel needs you feel are not being served? Create a business plan around tapping into this niche that includes finding suppliers that can help you build products for them. Look at how the “girlfriend getaway” trend has flowered, as well as the “guy getaway.”

Stretch Your Horizons
Along those lines, if you have found your niche, don’t be afraid to expand upon it. The consumer is always changing; moreover, they’re willing to change. Sometimes they need to have products pushed toward them to realize they want it. Who knew they’d also be willing to watch 24 hours’ worth of home-improvement shows, many that include refurbishing unattractive houses step by step, or watching out-of-shape couples walk around strange neighborhoods in search of their dream home? I can’t get enough of it! That particular show, “House Hunters,” recently extended its reach to include international locations, where clients look for tiny apartments in Hong Kong or oceanfront estates in Mexico. Those are the best!

If you’d told me I’d be so enthralled over such a thing years ago when I was watching “Rhoda” on Channel 2, I’d have fallen off my living room couch laughing.

Lastly, the message is, once you’ve found your successful selling niche, tap into the Internet to extend your reach and to give consumers a reason to seek you out. It’s quite easy to position yourself as an expert on a chosen topic on the web these days. Your site doesn’t have to be only about selling vacations. Perhaps you’ve chosen gay and lesbian travel, or cruise travel or the girlfriend getaway as your area of expertise. Do you have facts and stories about the destinations and hotels that are relevant to these topics on your site? How about starting a blog that you constantly update, which consumers will want to visit again and again to see what you’ve been up to? Just remember, there’s good blogging and bad blogging (which usually includes what you had for breakfast or the “discussion” that you had with your teenage daughter this morning about cleaning her room).

Your website can become a venue for consumers of like minds who are interested in your specialty to network socially. Invite your clients to share their thoughts on their trips and let them become the experts. Consider creating a gated community; for example, American Express has created an exclusive social networking website for its Cardmembers who have a proven penchant for travel.

Who knows, you may be looking at the next $5 billion idea.

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